(Image Credit: Kevin Liles/Atlanta Braves)
Written by Brian Pohl
Atlanta, GA- A day game finale from SunTrust Park saw the Atlanta Braves lose a 9-8 heartbreaker to the Boston Red Sox after a late-inning bullpen collapse.
A devastating loss for the Braves, who seemingly had the game in the bag entering the eighth inning with a 7-1 lead before the bullpen lost control of the game. The loss completes the sweep as the Red Sox won all three meetings at the Braves home ballpark.
Braves head coach Brian Snitker on the loss, “It’s definitely the toughest loss of the year. I mean when you have a game like that in hand, I mean we’ve done it to other people, but it’s tough. We’ve got to regroup.”
After losing the first two games of the series, Atlanta looked to be scuffling a bit despite holding on to a three-game lead in the National League East Division. The Braves would turn to the ace of their pitching rotation in Mike Foltynewicz to try to right the ship against the Red Sox who boast the best record in all of baseball.
“Folty” would deliver 6 strong innings for the Braves, giving up just one earned run and lowering his season era to 2.78. The 26-year old has taken a huge step forward for Atlanta this year, making the All-Star game for the first time earlier in the season, and looks to be the favorite to be the game one starter for the Braves if they make it to the postseason.
The Braves offense came out of the gate firing, as 20-year old rookie phenom Ronald Acuña Jr. would lead off the bottom of the first inning with a scorched line drive home run to put the Braves up 1-0. It was Acuña’s 24th home run of the season, and 8th to lead off a game, breaking the Braves all-time record for leadoff home runs in a season set by Marquis Grissom in 1996.
Acuña is must-see television for not just Atlanta fans, but all fans of baseball. The 20-year old plays the game with such joy and passion and has been one of the biggest reasons the Braves remain at the top of their division this late into the season.
After scoring a second run in the opening inning, and giving up Folty’s lone run in the top of the second, the game would move quickly until the bottom of the fifth, where the Braves would seemingly break the game open with five runs to give their bullpen a six-run cushion for the later innings.
Braves head coach Brian Snitker would go to that bullpen in the seventh inning, pulling Folty after 86 pitches. After a clean inning by reliever Jesse Biddle, Dan Winkler would take over the eighth, where the game would slip.
Six Red Sox runs would come across the plate in the inning, as Boston received big hit after big hit from their stacked lineup that does not feature any easy outs. After tying the game at seven, Braves closer A.J. Minter was able to escape, giving his team a chance to snatch the victory out of the jaws of defeat.
The hopes of the 28,386 Braves faithful were in the hands of star first baseman Freddie Freeman, who launched a solo home run over the right field wall to give Atlanta an 8-7, but the Braves would still need to get three more outs, and Boston wasn’t ready to give in.
With two outs and a runner on first in the top of the ninth inning, in stepped former Brave Brandon Phillips, who was just recently called up to the major leagues for Boston. The veteran second baseman demolished a fastball over the left field wall, silencing the Atlanta crowd and giving the Red Sox the 9-8 final score.
It was a disappointing series for the Braves, capped off by heartbreak. They still remain two and a half games up on the Phillies for the division lead, but need to find a way to immediately regroup for the final home stretch if they are to make the postseason for the first time in since 2014.
The Braves next travel to Arizona to play a difficult Diamondback team that has postseason aspirations themselves, and first pitch will be tomorrow night at 9:45 p.m. eastern.